Over the past decade, there has been a major shift in the way we produce and use energy around the world. Hundreds of thousands of homes have gone from consumers to producers of energy with solar, smart appliances and devices are turning off energy when we're not around, and advances in demand response have allowed for the market to put a price on energy efficiency. We're no longer just plugging into the grid and paying a bill -- consumers are now part of the energy process.
That's why Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) announcement yesterday that it is launching a home kit on iOS devices is so important for the future of utilities, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Mobile devices that millions of people have on them at all times will now become key to how we consume energy.
Energy apps are going to be everywhere
Apps that tell consumers about their energy usage are still in their infancy despite how central energy is to our lives. Until recently, there simply haven't been any options to interact with energy on mobile devices, but that's changing.
SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY ) and SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR ) both have apps that display power generated by their solar systems and with both testing energy storage that will more than likely be added to apps as well. An interesting output for both apps could be the ability to control both charging of things like electric cars as well as the ability to contribute to demand response systems.
Last year, I talked to former SunPower executive and current Solar Grid Storage CEO Tom Leyden about how his company was going to monetize batteries in renewable energy storage. He said that energy storage would allow commercial consumers to reduce demand charges (charges for peak demand) as well as by contributing to energy markets like PJM. So, interacting with energy storage is more than a toy, it can make renewables and energy storage economically viable.
EnerNoc (NASDAQ: ENOC ) has led the charge into demand response and already has a large network of commercial customers who are paid just to conserve energy. A home kit from Apple could make it possible to make similar changes to energy consumption available to every consumer and on a much grander scale than EnerNoc's network. It could even open up new business opportunities for demand response.
The companies I'm most interested to watch here are SolarCity and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) , which are tied at the hip because Elon Musk is a board member and CEO, respectively. They're already working together on energy storage and it could be seamless for them to allow control of when and how to charge an EV and contributing to the grid when it's economical.
Opening a world of possibilities
Apple may not be an energy company but it has a platform that will allow emerging energy companies to innovate and bring new business models to energy. This will be a boon to renewable energy, energy storage, and efficiency and it has to have utilities scared about the future.
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